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Labour would block new North Sea oil and gas developments, report claims

In contrast, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed new exploration.

Oil rig
Oil rig

New North Sea oil and gas developments will reportedly be blocked under a Labour government.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is on the verge of announcing the block when he sets out his net-zero energy policy in Scotland next month, The Sunday Times said.

As part of the energy plans, the newspaper reported a Sir Keir-run government would only borrow to invest in green enterprises, and that Labour expects its plans to create up to half a million jobs in the renewables industry, including 50,000 in Scotland.

A Labour source told the Sunday Times: “We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea.

“They will do nothing to cut bills, as the Tories have acknowledged.

“They undermine our energy security and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets.

“But Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the UK into a clean energy superpower.”

Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will set out his net-zero policy next month (PA)

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, told Sky News on Sunday that his party will over the coming weeks outline “how we want to invest in green jobs of the future”.

He said it is not about “shutting down what’s going on at the moment”, but rather ensuring current developments are managed “sustainably”.

He added: “We know we’ve got to move to more renewable sources of energy, it’s important for our climate change commitments but it’s also the way in which we can bring energy bills down for consumers.”

In its draft energy strategy published in January, the Scottish Government said there “should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas”, as it proposed making the “fastest possible just transition”.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed new oil and gas exploration, and energy licences are under Westminster’s control.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said on Twitter on Sunday: “First it was the SNP, now Labour want to abandon the north east and the thousands of jobs that support North Sea oil and gas.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives will stand up for the area and those employed in our oil and gas sector.”

The North Sea Transition Authority has recently held a licensing round for oil and gas exploration projects which attracted more than 100 bids.

Two oil fields, Cambo and Jackdaw, have been given licences.

Dave Whitehouse, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK, said Britons would not forgive anyone who shut down the country’s oil and gas industry and replaced it with foreign imports.

He added: “Everyone is clear that the energy system must change; business and government must do this in partnership. Labour’s approach risks sending the wrong signals.

“By investing in homegrown production, we avoid costlier, less secure, and higher carbon footprint imports while supporting the infrastructure we need to make cleaner, more affordable energy in the UK, for the UK.

“As we build that future there is no simple choice between oil and gas on the one hand and renewables on the other. The reality is that to keep the lights on and grow our economy, we need both. By the mid-2030s, oil and gas will still provide for 50% of our energy needs.

“We urge Keir Starmer and (shadow chancellor) Rachel Reeves to fulfil their promise to listen to industry and engage with our workers.

“We need to meet our climate goals while not undermining energy security, the economy and the very people needed to deliver secure and affordable energy.”

And Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, hit out at the plans as “pie in the sky stuff drawn up with zero engagement with the industry, or the region, which has been powering the UK for 50 years”.

““Big ambition on renewable energy is exactly what we need. However, once again, we have politicians threatening to undermine the energy transition with a position on oil and gas that is not grounded in the reality of how net zero will be delivered,” he said.

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